Connacht 3-13 Leinster 1-16
A look at the starting lineouts might have given the impression that Leinster might have been taking this M Donnelly hurling interprovincial semi-final much more seriously than Connacht.
With Galway very much in mind, Anthony Cunningham took the opportunity to blood a host of young guns in a team that included only four of the team that played in the All-Ireland final.
In stark contrast, Joe Dooley’s Leinster side was packed with frontliners, led by nine of the Kilkenny outfit that edged past the Tribesmen at Croke Park last September.
For a 10-minute period at the beginning of each half, it looked as if that early impression would be confirmed by a comfortable victory for Leinster but Niall Burke was outstanding in keeping Connacht in touch in the opening period, while three second-half goals sealed the honours.
A paltry attendance of 489 people turned up to watch the fare, which was of challenge-match standard, lacking completely in intensity and urgency until the closing quarter.
Leinster were completely dominant early on, despite playing into a strong wind and led by 0-6 to 0-1 at the end of the opening quarter.
Shane Dooley was responsible for four of those scores, three of which came from frees. Dooley was very unlucky not to add a goal to that tally as he crashed a shot off the crossbar but Aidan Forgarty reacted smartly to fire over from the rebound.
Burke had Galway’s only score by that stage and the Oranmore-Maree clubman had six of his side’s eight points by the interval, when the sides went in level.
He began to exert a significant influence when moved to centre-forward, hitting two wonderful points from play to go with five efforts from placed balls. Cyril Donnellan augmented those efforts with a brace.
You still expected Leinster to pull away in the second half with the elements so strongly in their favour, even with the introduction of Damien Hayes and Davy Glennon by Cunningham at the interval.
Glennon landed an early score to give Connacht the lead for the first time but Leinster responded with six consecutive points, including two each for Joe Bergin and Richie Hogan.
Crucially, they also wasted two gilt-edged goal opportunities in this period, with Dooley having a shot cleared off teh line and Danny Sutcliffe firing wide. Dooley was inches wide later on as well.
By contrast, Connacht were clinical when the opportunities to billow the net presented themselves.
Goalkeeper Colm Callanan converted a 20m free in the 52nd minute via Gary Maguire’s stick and when Hayes sent a ground stroke to the net after a strong catch and clever hand-pass by Jonathan Glynn six minutes later, the westerners were in front.
Glennon raced through to nab the third five minutes from time but when Eoin Larkin goaled for Leinster in the 68th minute, the prospect of extra time loomed.
Tommy Walsh had time to drop one last free into the opposition danger-zone but the sliotar was cleared and Connacht advanced.
Scorers – Connacht: N Burke 0-9(4fs, 1 65); D Glennon 1-1; C Donnellan 0-3; C Callanan (f), D Hayes 1-0 each
Leinster: S Dooley 0-8(7fs); R Hogan 0-3; E Larkin 1-0; A Fogarty, J Bergin 0-2 each, C Fennelly 0-1
Connacht (all Galway): C Callanan; B Flaherty, S Kavanagh, P Killeen; T Óg Regan, J Cooney, N Donoghue; A Harte, P Brehony; P Gordon, J Glynn, C Donnellan; S Maloney, N Burke, A Callanan. Subs: D Hayes for Gordon (ht); D Glennon for A Callanan (ht); J Grealish for Brehony (44); R Cummins for Maloney (54)
Leinster: G Maguire (Dublin); P Murphy (Kilkenny), JJ Delaney (Kilkenny), J Tyrell (Kilkenny); T Walsh (Kilkenny), B Hogan (Kilkenny), R Hanniffy (Offaly); M Fennelly (Kilkenny), D Redmon (Wexford); D Sutcliffe (Dublin), J Bergin (Offaly), C Fennelly (Kilkenny); S Dooley (Offaly), R Hogan (Kilkenny), A Fogarty (Kilkenny). Subs: P Kelly (Dublin) for Redmond (47); E Larkin (Kilkenny) for Bergin (53); C Keaney (Dublin) for C Fennelly (56); P Morris (Wexford) for Sutcliffe (69)
Referee: O Elliott (Antrim)